Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Ron Jolly asked about a word that he encountered in a book about the northern Michigan of days gone by: “Let us take you into the fastnesses of the primeval forest.” The Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that one of the meanings of the word was the state of being dense, compact, and solid. So we’re talking about close-set trees and underbrush that made access difficult.

That brought up the word fast and the many meanings that it has. As a noun, there are four words spelled that way, though their origins are completely separate:

·      Abstinence from food.
·      A rope by which a ship is connected to a wharf.
·      An understratum or bedrock that is fixed in place.
·      Arrogance or pompousness.

But it is as an adjective that the meanings of fast explode into action:

·      of an object: firmly fixed in place
·      of a person: firm, steadfast person
·      of sleep: deep and ungroken
·      of a vessel: fixed on the ground or shore
·      of a color: permanent
·      of an organism: resistant to the toxic action of an agent
·      of material: closely knit together
·      of style: compact, terse
·      of water: frozen
·      of a fortress: secure against attack
·      firmly attached to something else
·      of a knot: firmly tied
·      of a door, window, etc.: shut, bolted, or locked
·      gripping, tenacious
·      close-fisted, niggardly
·      of motion: quick, swift
·      of a clock: indicating a time more advanced than the true time
·      of film: needing only brief exposure
·      of transport: adapted to quick movement
·      of persons: extravagant in habits or morality

Totally off subject, but vital nonetheless, is the fact that F.A.S.T. is an acronym that helps remind us of the symptoms of a stroke.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition
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